For the last week, I have been travelling around Southern Spain, Andalusia and Extremadura. The January weather is cold but sunny, and there are not many tourists crowding the streets and restaurants, so the service is great.
Before setting out, I carefully chose each hotel. I don’t mind visiting several sites and checking that I’ve found the most comfortable option at the best possible price, and the hotels I have stayed in have been four and five-star hotels.
When you hear ‘five-star hotel’, what pops into your mind? A swanky lobby, a king-sized bed and a spa? Well, yesterday I stayed in a five-star hotel that had none of those things. The room was perfectly nice, but there were cracks in the walls around the door, the carpet in the corridor had horrible stains on it and the door entry system didn’t work and we had to go back to reception three times to get the keys changed. Hardly a five-star experience.
Spain does not have a national classification system for hotels, and each regional government has its own rules and regulations. However, there are minimums. To be awarded a one-star classification a hotel must offer at least the following: double room 12 m2 minimum, single room 7 m2 minimum, bathroom (bath or shower) 3.5 m2, central heating, lift. To be a five-star hotel the minimum requirements are: double room 17 m2 minimum, single room 10 m2 minimum, bathroom (bath and shower) 5 m2 minimum, telephone in room, central heating, air conditioning in room, lift, bar, safety deposit box in room.
As you can see, it appears that when it comes to a star rating, size does matter. These minimum requirements make no mention of the minibars, chocolates on the pillow, fluffy white bathrobes and little bottles of shampoo and conditioner we love and expect when we splash out for a five-star experience.
On the other hand, it must be said that sometimes you get far more than you pay for. I am writing this sitting at the desk in a four-star hotel in a converted stone convent in Trujillo, Extremadura. There is an ancient fresco on the wall (behind glass) depicting Jesus carrying the cross and a nun carrying another cross. It isn’t a happy scene. I hope it doesn’t give me bad dreams. However, this room in this four-star hotel has cost me €53 (for two people including breakfast). I have a view over a courtyard with a swimming pool and there’s a flat screen TV and central heating.
Even if there isn’t a bell hop with shiny buttons or a minibar, I’m wondering whether I should just stay here and work. With the hike in electricity prices, it would probably be cheaper than going home.